Argh: New USB 3.0 Lightning to SD Card Reader Still Doesn’t Support XAVC-S

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Apple released their new USB 3.0 Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader last week alongside the release of iOS 9.2, so I wanted to post some follow-up on my previous post on importing XAVC-S videos to the iPad.

This new adapter transfers media from the SD card to your iOS device at USB 3.0 speeds (theoretically up to 10x faster than USB 2). The caveat is that this extra speed is only available on the iPad Pro, since it’s the only iOS device with USB 3.0 hardware built into the Lightning port. That speed is helpful for transferring large numbers of RAW files from a day of shooting, so it’s something that professional photographers can take advantage of immediately.

Unfortunately for my Sony A6000 and the XAVC-S format, this newest USB 3.0 Lightning-to-SD adapter still isn’t of any use to me.

That USB 3.0 speed would be incredibly handy for sending HD video from a camera straight to your iPad Pro. I took some XAVC-S video at a birthday party recently, and the resulting 30–40 mins of footage was 8 GB on the SD card. The difference between USB 2 and USB 3 speeds in file transfers that large is a marked difference.

Before testing the new reader, I made sure my iPad was updated iOS 9.2. My hope was that, between the new hardware of the USB 3.0 reader and the updates in iOS 9.2, something may have changed since my previous post on XAVC-S. However, when I connected the SD card to the iPad, I was presented with an all-too-familiar sight: all of my pictures showed up in the Import tab of Photos, but I still couldn’t see any of my videos.

Apple’s own staff are also quite under-trained in this area; I visited two different Apple Stores asking about this, but it seemed too niche a question for the retail locations. I don’t expect everyone to be an expert on codecs (I’m still learning about them myself), but I find it absurd that a specialized Apple accessory like this SD card reader can’t recognize the XAVC-S .mp4 files from my A6000 (which means Sony A7 users are out of luck, as well).

From what I can tell, Apple’s own support documents say that iOS 9 and the Reader support the video I’m recording. Here’s the document for supported iOS video formats and the description of the SD Card reader says “…supports standard photo formats, including JPEG and RAW, along with SD and HD video formats, including H.264 and MPEG–4”.

iOS 9 can definitely recognize and edit XAVC-S files, though. I’ve done just that by AirDropping the videos over from my Mac, but that still requires the Mac to act as a middleman. The hardware support for fast video transfer is present in this newest Camera Card Reader, but the software support is still lacking as of iOS 9.2.

This article only reflects the view of a Sony camera user trying to get XAVC-S video to an iPad Pro. I can’t speak for how the SD card adapter plays with video from other camera manufacturers (e.g., Olympus, Panasonic, Nikon, Canon), so if your camera is working nicely with this adapter, let us know the details in the comments.

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